Some movies I bought on a wide variety of services but now have access through one central service.
Some movies I bought on a wide variety of services but now have access through one central service.
Screenshot: Movies Anywhere

If you are like me you are, perhaps, averse to buying digital movies. We don’t own the things we acquire digitally and there’s no telling when a service will shutter, like Microsoft’s eBook store, or stop supplying the digital content you bought—like all the weed apps pulled from the iOS app store. Digital purchases tend to feel more like really long term rentals than actual stuff you own. But if you’re buying digital movies there’s a way to better ensure long term access.

Last year I finally sucked it up and decided to pare down my Blu-Ray collection. (Mainly because my job requires living in New York which hasn’t met a physical collection of things it didn’t think needed to be pared down to fit in a tiny apartment). A lot of the Blu-Rays I owned included digital copies so I set about trying to redeem as many digital copies as I could. Some were for services that no longer exist, while other codes had long expired.

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However, one service kept popping up: Movies Anywhere. Movies Anywhere originally started as a Disney service to access your Marvel, Disney, and Star Wars content on iOS. In 2017 it rebranded as Movies Anywhere and aggressively went after its primary competitor, Ultraviolet. Like Ultraviolet it lets you log into a single account to access movies purchased across multiple services.

Movies Anywhere then suggested I log into other accounts where I might own movies, including iTunes, Amazon, the Microsoft Store, the Google Play Store, Youtube, and Vudu. Late at night and too lazy to do my due diligence to make sure Movies Anywhere was legit I gamely logged into each service. Slowly my digital library of movies expanded.

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And expanded.

Now I have over 54 movies on my Apple account where I used to have exactly four. Movies that work with Movies Anywhere will appear on any service that ties into it. That means if you buy an applicable movie on YouTube you’ll get the same film, at the same resolution, on Apple and Vudu as well. There’s no messing around in apps or anything either. It just automatically happens.

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It hasn’t been the most perfect solution. Some films don’t appear on every service, and some films don’t even work with Movies Anywhere. Annihiliation, purchased on my Apple TV, works fine on Apple, but doesn’t appear on Google Play, while the Steven Universe movie, also purchased on Apple TV, is available on both services.

That’s because Movies Anywhere only works with a few select distributors:

  • Disney
  • Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.
  • Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.
  • Universal
  • Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Admittedly, Disney alone produces more than half of the biggest films each year, yet smaller films and art house films aren’t as likely to be found on Movies Anywhere. That means if you’ve got fancy taste Movies Anywhere might not be worth a log in. Lionsgate and Paramount Pictures also aren’t covered by Movies Anywhere as they both embraced the competing and now-defunct Ultraviolet.

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Lack of 100-percent studio support aside I’ve been incredibly pleased with Movies Anywhere. I know if one service decides to pivot I won’t necessarily lose out on the movies I’ve picked up over the years. I’m naturally uneasy about embracing yet another arm of Disney’s monopolistic digital machine, but this one, at least for now, plays well with others.


Update 1:34pm ET: Also, as Verge noted this morning, Movies Anywhere is launched a closes beta to let you loan the purchased movies to friends. In case you need another reason to give it a shot.

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Senior Consumer Tech Editor. Trained her dog to do fist bumps. Once wrote for Lifetime. Tips encouraged via Secure Drop, Proton Mail, or DM for Signal.

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